Sticker weeds are plants that grow quickly, easily spread, and are a nuisance if trodden on with bare feet. The umbrella term of ‘stickers’ is most often used for several species of grasses and weeds. All of them are invasive species that literally choke other plants.
Because of this, their presence is often detrimental to the lawns and it leaves many gardeners wondering how to get rid of stickers in yards, gardens, and lawns. In this article, I’ll be revealing all about sticker weeds and the best ways to control them.
- What Are These Stickers In My Yard?
- How to Get Rid of Stickers Naturally
- Sticker Weed Removal With Chemicals
- When Should I Treat My Yard For Stickers?
- FAQs How To Get Rid Of Stickers In Yard
- Final Thoughts
What Are These Stickers In My Yard?
Sticker weeds is a general term that covers many different species, and I’ll define these species in the section below.
A common characteristic of stickers is the speed of spreading. These weeds can go from a single plant to an overcrowded population in a matter of days (especially with small yards).
They’re called sticker weeds because of their means of seed spreading. Sticker weeds have small burs with needle-like thorns that stick to animals. The burs naturally fall off after some time and grow in a new spot.
Although sticker weeds are native to Europe and the Americas, they have now spread to Asia, Africa, and Australia.
Types of Sticker Weeds
There are several plant species labeled as sticker weeds.
Sandburs – also known as buffelgrass, these plants belong to the Cenchrus genus. Most sandburs are native to the Americas but have now spread to Australia and Europe, where they present noxious plant species.
Sandburs are easily recognized because of the little spine-covered hooks or ‘spurs’ that get stuck on clothes or animal fur. These spurs are capable of hurting animals if they ingest them, but they are not poisonous. Since they can grow up to 0.4 inches in some cases, the spurs can be very painful when trodden on or if matted into the fur.
Tribulus terrestris (Puncture Vine) – this species of stickers has spread to all continents except for Antarctica and it can pose problems if found in your yard. The spines of the bur are very long and sharp, making them more than capable of penetrating the skin.
Burweed – this weedy plant is known for its needle-like seeds that stick to animals that pass by. They basically use animals for spreading. Burweed is quite painful to walk on for both humans and animals, so make sure to actively avoid treading on it if you spot it on your lawn.
This type of sticker is native to South America, but it has spread to North America, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Europe.
Where Does Sticker Weed Grow
Although sticker weeds are highly adaptable and will prosper in any type of soil, they do especially well in dry and hard soil.
Originally adapted to the warm climate of southern Europe, Africa, and Asia, these plants have easily adapted to different climates and are capable of invading lawns, pathways, and borders if left untreated.
– essentially wherever seeds are blown or dropped.
How Quickly Do Sticker Weeds Spread
Sticker weeds spread incredibly quickly and easily either by windfall or by animals getting the sticky burrs caught in their fur. Once these seeds are dropped they are capable of sprouting in even the aridest of soil.
Newly sprouted weeds first appear in the fall and mature over the winter. Initially, their growing speed during the winter is slowed down drastically (or completely minimized), but the weeds will hit a growth spurt as soon as the temperatures allow it in the spring.
Because of this, they have to be cut short immediately, as they’ll completely occupy your yard otherwise.
How to Get Rid of Stickers Naturally
Natural methods of treatment and prevention are often more than enough to get rid of the stickers in your yard. Here’s a look at my top recommendations for getting rid of sticker weeds in your yard naturally.
1. Remove Stickers by Hand
It’s best to remove the weeds while the plant is still young from autumn and into winter. A tender weed will have smaller roots that are yet to be established, making removal easier.
Regardless of whether you are removing new or established stickers from your lawn by hand, it is important that you remove all traces of the plant – this includes leaves, stems, seed heads, and especially roots.
I recommend digging into the soil at least 6 inches away from the main stem of the sticker weed and loosening the soil around the base and roots. Use a handheld fork or a weed puller to tease out the entire plant making sure that all traces of the roots are removed.
Extra care should be taken when removing established stickers. Firstly, their burs will be sharp if handled without protective gardening gloves and secondly, seeds can easily be scattered with any vigorous shaking or handling.
By completely removing all traces of the sticker weed from the ground, the plant will be gone and unable to produce seeds or spread more roots.
2. Use A White Vinegar Solution Spray
Combining a gallon of white vinegar, a cup of table salt, and a tablespoon of dishwashing soap will make an effective homemade solution for weeds.
While this solution does work, it’s important to point out that it’s non-selective. However, if you spray it on neighboring plants as well, it will kill them just like it kills weeds
3. Using Mulch To Prevent Weeds From Growing
Mulch is known as a cultural solution for sticker weeds (you change the environmental culture without using chemicals, such as herbicides). It essentially limits the amount of sunlight and water the sticker weeds get. They can’t collect sunlight anymore and they die – simple.
Bear in mind that organic mulch will need to be replaced more often than synthetic mulch. An alternative could be that you combine a layer of mulch with preemergence herbicides as an effective method of completely preventing the growth of weeds.
Synthetic mulch is usually more expensive, but with good reason. These materials can last for four years, so they’re a smart investment. Synthetic mulch usually comes in the form of geotextiles, which are basically landscape fabrics that won’t affect the plants negatively.
They work by allowing air and water to pass and limiting the amount of sunlight that gets to the weeds.
In some instances there may be some weeds in your garden that you’ll find are so well-rooted, that they are capable of growing through mulch. According to Texas A&M University, this problem can be solved with the use of newspapers.
Simply lay down a layer of newspaper on the soil before applying mulch – this will thicken the layer between the weed and the mulch, thus enhancing the lack of oxygen and sunlight supply and ultimately killing the weeds.
4. Mow Your Lawn Frequently
This method is self-explanatory; if you constantly shorten the weeds along with your lawn, they’ll never be able to grow to their full size.
This approach won’t completely irradicate stickers from your lawn, however. Whilst mowing your lawn often can be useful for preventing the spreading of seeds for many varieties of broadleaf weeds that produce low-flowering flower heads, the flowers of sticker weeds often grow tall, and quickly.
Problems can start to arise with weeds that flower either lower or higher than the mowing blade. The risk is that either the weeds won’t be severed at all, or, the flower heads will be severed causing seeds to be distributed across your lawn.
It is worth checking the height of your mower blades against the height of any flowers on your yard stickers.
5. Keep Lawns Hydrated
Many weeds occur because of incorrect lawn irrigation. Certain weeds only grow because the lawn is overwatered. Watering the lawn superficially and frequently is great for weeds as they need constant access to water, so you should avoid this type of irrigation.
Unless you are tending to the watering needs of a newly planted lawn (either from seed or laid with sod) it’s best to water the lawn deeply and infrequently – that way, there’ll be a limited amount of water for weeds to grow.
However, it’s just as important to avoid dehydration – you don’t want your lawn to die because of a lack of water. Weeds have more room to spread if your property has bald patches caused by dried-up or dead grass. As a result, weeds are more aggressive as their roots spread. In turn, they’ll drink up all the available water and encourage even more growth.
Sticker Weed Removal With Chemicals
When wondering how to get rid of stickers in the yard, know that chemical solutions are often more effective, despite being less natural.
A combination of herbicides to kill the weeds and pre-emergent chemicals that will prevent them from growing again can provide an effective long-term solution.
1. Use a Pre-Emergent Before Weeds Appear
As the name suggests, pre-emergence herbicides should be applied before the weeds appear – they’re specialized in killing weed seedlings before they develop. Even if the wind brings seeds to your yard, pre-emergents will destroy the seedlings. It’s only necessary that the herbicide is applied before the plant sprouts.
I recommend applying preemergent herbicides once a year, preferably in autumn. Most sticker weeds are winter plants, and according to the University of Florida, it’s best to apply pre-emergent herbicides in October, when temperatures range between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Researchers from MSU and UGA say that burweed specifically needs to be targeted on a yearly basis – if you don’t apply the pre-emergent herbicide again this year, burweed will definitely grow again.
A few things to keep in mind about preemergent herbicides is that these chemicals aren’t designed to kill mature weeds. They’ll have no effect on them and you will have to apply post-emergence herbicides as well if you want to kill those weeds.
Secondly, preemergence herbicides need a thorough application to work properly. You really have to provide a good soaking to the areas you know sticker weeds are likely to sprout and to the soil in order for the herbicides to have any effect.
Lastly, preemergence herbicides need plenty of water to be activated. After applying the herbicide solution, you need to cover it with half an inch of water.
2. Use Post Emergent Products to Kill Stickers in Grass
The most effective solution for killing mature stickers is using post-emergent products. These herbicides work by preventing the weed from feeding – essentially starving the plant to death.
When herbicides are applied to plants, they begin to wilt and turn yellow quite quickly. Soon after leaves and stems will blacken, growth with becoming distorted, and the growth of roots will become stunted. Once the plant is dead it can be removed from the soil and disposed of.
There are two types of post-emergent herbicides – systemic and contact herbicides.
The latter basically injures the plant and has better results with younger plants. Systemic herbicides function on a different principle – they cause injury from within, preventing the plant from feeding.
When it comes to choosing herbicides, it’s important to keep in mind their selective or non-selective nature. Nonselective herbicides kill everything they touch – this includes your lawn and any neighboring plants.
Selective herbicides, however, only kill certain plants. If you can identify the weeds you have to kill, definitely opt for selective herbicides. That way, you won’t risk harming any of the plants you want to keep.
Even if you can’t recognize the exact weed species, there are selective broad-spectrum post-emergent herbicides that are specialized for weeds.
3. Fertilize With A High Nitrogen Fertilizer
Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for grass ensuring lush, green blades of grass and strong, healthy root growth. Therefore, using a fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen on your lawn will encourage growth both above and below the ground.
If you have strong, healthy growth with densely populated blades of grass, there is less chance that weeds will pop up in the first place. There simply isn’t enough room for the weeds to grow.
When Should I Treat My Yard For Stickers?
You can use post-emergent herbicides on very young plants in December, January, and February. It’s most effective against young plants that haven’t yet established themselves. These stickers will grow and become harder to get rid of in the spring.
If it’s springtime and larger stickers have emerged, I also recommend using post-emergent herbicides. These herbicides will kill mature plants too.
Avoid using pre-emergent herbicides once sticker weeds have sprouted. They are only effective at preventing weed seeds from germinating.
The best time to use pre-emergent herbicides for sticker weeds is towards the end of summer and early fall before their seeds have sprouted. They are intended to protect your yard from sticker weeds that are yet to grow. If applied well, pre-emergent herbicides will kill any weed that hasn’t yet sprouted.
FAQs How To Get Rid Of Stickers In Yard
Stickers can be annoying not only because they’re choking your plants and taking their nutrients, but because they can cause a lot of pain when stepped on. Luckily, they can be eradicated.
Make sure to keep your yard tidy – mow the lawn regularly and rip the weeds out by hand. Applying post-emergent and pre-emergent herbicides is a great way of killing them and preventing them from growing again.
Remember that weeds need plenty of water to grow – this is why they often grow in overwatered yards. Instead of regularly watering your yard on a superficial level, water it less often, but more thoroughly.
Finally, keeping your lawn in good condition and encouraging strong root and leaf growth with the use of high-nitrogen fertilizer, means there will be less room for weeds to grow.